Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area

I know I know, I still owe you guys a race recap, but while that’s in the works, I’ll leave you with another little running adventure I embarked on last week.

I’ve been enjoying my post-race recovery and have really only been running if/when/and for how long I feel like. As most marathoners know, this is a valuable time to get caught up in the other stuff in life. But by Thursday last week I was raring to go and did a quick 20 min run on the treadmill at lunch hour. I had little desire to run on hard pavement, so I decided to seek out some grassy trails to run on.

I had heard of the Ann and Sandy Cross area outside of Calgary and have been eager to check it out. Located in the foothills south-west of Calgary, it’s not far away and promised many-a rolling acres of open and wooded land.

Sandy Cross is the son of A.E. Cross (one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four”) and Helen Rothney Macleod.  Sandy started purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm and eventually the Cross Conservation Area. In 1987, Sandy and his wife Ann donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time, it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history and was operated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.- source

Due to my natural ability to procrastinate, I left home later in the afternoon and battled the 4pm traffic (what the hell, Calgary?) out of the city. I arrived at ASCCA around 5:30 and knew I had about an hour before sunset to get my run in.

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From the parking lot there was a nice view of the city to the north-east, and the mountains straight to the west.

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Hi Calgary!

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Hi mountains!

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I had planned to aim for the 8.8km Pine Creek Trail, but was ok with seeing how I felt and taking a shorter turn back if necessary.

By the time I registered my vehicle in the log, paid my $2 donation, retied my shoes and went to the bathroom, it was 5:45. There was a short walk from the parking lot to the start of the trail and at that point I saw these lil guys.

2013-10-19 17.47.40I took off to the right of the gravel trail, following the Chevron Aspen Trail mostly downhill through some trees.

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At the base of the downhill I reached the bathrooms and it started sprinkling rain. I kept on going towards the junction of Chevron Aspen and Pine Creek, pondering for a moment if I should towards the longer route. My stomach gurgled. I was getting a little hungry, I didn’t have any water, it was raining a bit, and the sun was close to setting. I was alone and defenseless against any wildlife that I may encounter. I thought about the “DANGER: COUGARS MAY BE IN THE AREA. DON’T HIKE ALONE” sign I saw at the parking lot. Then I decided to keep going up the long, lonely uphill path to Pine Creek.

This uphill continued for a while, and gradually whittled down my desire to keep going. The residual exhaustion still hanging out in my legs due to the marathon I ran six days prior became a little more intense. And I kept thinking of all those things from the previous paragraph. I reached what I thought was the top of the hill and saw a little downwards dip, then more uphill. Fuck this. I turned around and went back to the junction and decided that I’d run one or two of the smaller loops, time and energy permitting.

The trail rose up out of the trees onto a grassy hill and connected with the Fescue trail. The intermittent rain provided some dramatic skies to contrast the tall grass.

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Evidence of the area’s previous life as a farm was located throughout as well.

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I rounded a hill and descended into a valley towards the Racher’s Trail. The picture doesn’t do justice, but it was pretty. The downhill was a nice slope which tricked me into thinking “Hey! I should just continue on the longer Fescue trail instead!”

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But then I started the inevitable uphill and decided that the shorter, smarter route would be the way to go. I finished the Racher’s trail on some serious incline that I had to walk up. Oh trail running. You kick my ass every time.

When I got back to the start, the same deer were still hanging out and stared at me.

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Somewhere at the start. I can’t remember where this fit but I figured it’d be a nice one to end on.

I really enjoyed running in this area and I look forward to returning back with some running companions and challenge the Pine Creek trail (earlier in the day). I also think it’d be great for snowshoeing (if you didn’t already know that I was into snowshoeing, now you do!). Most people think of Alberta as flat prairies with a skiff of mountains at the edge, but there is the whole foothills range that is absolutely gorgeous and worthy of exploring. If you live in Calgary, it’s quicker to get to than the opposite edge of the city, so you really have no excuses.

Next on my calendar of adventure… A VACATION. A pure, enjoyment, non-running focused (not that that’s not enjoyable) vacation. I’m traveling out east to Toronto and area to visit my uncle and friend. I’m hoping to do some horse riding, relaxing, winery visiting, and girly things with some pals.

So till then, ciao! Maybe I’ll even have a race recap for you. Maybe.

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